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Violent Political Insurrections Threaten Kabul Recovery Plan

By Susan B. Glasser and Peter Baker
THE WASHINGTON POST -- KABUL, Afghanistan

A wave of violence and political conflict in recent days has set Afghanistan on edge and threatens key steps on the fractured country’s road to reconstruction, including the scheduled return next week of the exiled king and the promised delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid.

In a week that began with an assassination attempt against the defense minister, new reports of instability have emerged every day since. Just Thursday, the United Nations reported the murder of an aid worker in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, while international peacekeepers turned up a large weapons cache near the capital. The Afghan government has also been confronted by factional fighting between local commanders near Iran and by revolts in the southern part of the country by poppy farmers upset over eradication of their lucrative opium crop.

“The last few days have not been very positive,” said John Fairhurst, who heads operations in Afghanistan for the international aid group Oxfam. “Everyone’s quite jittery.”

Such anxiety was in evidence Thursday at the conclusion of a two-day conference of international donors who pledged in Tokyo earlier this year to give $1.8 billion for Afghan reconstruction but so far have handed over only $360 million. The meeting here was designed, as a top U.N. official put it, “to move from plans to action.” But the Afghan interim government came away with little more than new promises from a handful of countries and a $100 million loan offer from the World Bank that the Afghans would prefer not to accept when donations have been pledged.

“They don’t want to give money to support the interim administration,” said an attendee who did not want to be named. “They are worried about security and what they see as continuing instability.”